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Federal government signs on to ClearanceJobs.com

By Marjorie Censer
Monday, November 15, 2010; 12

Evan H. Lesser knew from experience how long it can take to obtain a security clearance; he waited 14 months as a contractor for his own clearance.

So it was little wonder that his employer -- as well as that of his wife -- was having trouble filling jobs that required clearances. Lesser figured there had to be an easier way to match already-cleared job seekers with coveted positions in the defense contracting industry.

In 2002, the couple launched ClearanceJobs.com, a Web site dedicated to giving both defense contractors and federal agencies a centralized way to find qualified job candidates.

The couple had started putting the idea together in the late 1990s, when they lived in Northern Virginia, but put it on hold when they moved to Atlanta in 2000 to start a family. In mid-2001, they started working on it again, but still had full-time jobs.

After Sept. 11, Lesser said they felt a renewed interest in launching it, viewing the site as a small contribution to national security. Run out of their home, the site opened with no registered job seekers. Word of it spread, and several thousand cleared job seekers were registered by the end of the year.

By 2004, it had snowballed, growing to include 17,000 candidates and about 100 employers -- who pay to access the registry -- and Lesser and his wife sold the site to careers Web site provider Dice Holdings.

"It was just getting too big for us to handle," said Lesser, who has stayed on as director. "It was either sell or expand."

Today, ClearanceJobs has 350,000 job seekers -- all U.S. citizens and all with security clearances. The site offers a whole range of content, including salary data, career advice for candidates and question-and-answer forums. From four employees when Lesser sold the site, ClearanceJobs now has about 180 employees.

For the third quarter of 2010, Dice reported that its tech and clearance segment -- which includes ClearanceJobs and Dice.com -- saw revenue increase to $23 million, up 18 percent from the same period a year earlier. Revenue grew 28 percent at ClearanceJobs, according to Dice.

Scot W. Melland, president and chief executive of Dice, said the company bought ClearanceJobs after defense contractors and consulting firms reported needing help finding candidates with clearances. While Dice faced challenges during the recession, Melland said, ClearanceJobs grew throughout.

ClearanceJobs scored a major win about two years ago when the federal government decided to begin using it, Lesser said. Among the site's customers are the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA and the Federal Reserve.

Today, Lesser said the process to get a clearance has been streamlined, meaning the average wait is about six months. Yet companies still face difficulty finding the hires they need and increasingly compete for candidates, he said.

And there are more jobs than ever on the site, 7,000 now, Lesser said.

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